Depression and the loss of self-worth are haunting subjects to tackle. It’s difficult to succinctly place into words a wholly subjective experience. No one person’s battle with depression is cookie cutter, it’s a unique experience that someone can feel at any point in their life. Confronting these subjects in art is one of the best ways to fully understand it’s effect. But, only when it’s done in a respectful manner. Luckily, The Grandfather excels at this. Considering how short and succinct the game is, it manages to pack a lot of interesting concepts and analysis into it. Clocking in at a whopping 36 minutes, The Grandfather is an intense character study into the depressing and tragic life of it’s titular character.
The Grandfather is a sad man. A very sad man. Emotionally beaten and brutalized by his cold, heartless wife. His very existence is a tragedy. We encounter our character nearing the end of his life and coming to terms with his loveless marriage. His wife has destroyed his heart. The literal adaptation of The Grandfather’s heart is scarring. Where vascular tubes once were is now inhabited by snake like tendrils with sharp teeth preparing to cut down anyone who attempts to get close. Nails and shards of glass and razors have punctured through the arteries in horrid fashion.
I’m giving these details because I feel that it’s a necessity to fully understand this game. I don’t know how many times my heart broke as the story unraveled and pieces were revealed of the nature of the man’s life. I don’t want to give too much detail into the actual story of the game because I think it’s something that deserves to be experienced not merely to be told.
The game uses four mechanics to convey it story.
The first being a first person sequence that is referred back too several times throughout the course of the game is rather simple and can be completed by just holding down the W key. The actual challenge in the first person aspect is quite literally non-existent. You merely travel through The Grandfather’s umbilical cord. Yes, dear reader, you read that correctly. This game is without a shadow of a doubt weird as fuck. It grapples with complex themes? Absolutely. Does it do it in as weird a manner as it can? Abso-fucking-lutely. The grandfather is bizarre and definitely has a unique style to it. I really enjoyed the look and feel of the game. It’s desperate and fraught with loneliness and despair. During the first person moment you uncover the pieces of The Grandfather’s body which has mysteriously been hacked to pieces in a grizzly fashion. The main objective of the game is to move through the umbilical cord to obtain the next body part. After you grab the body part you are moved to the puzzle locations. During these puzzle sequences you play as The Grandfather disembodied, floating head which is able to grab objects and manipulate the environment.
The puzzles never escalate too wildly in difficulty since the purpose of the game isn’t to be a puzzle game. It is a visual storybook that has the elements of a video game. Which isn’t necessarily fair to say and I know that people have differing opinions on what makes a game. This is a Video Game. It’s just not a hard one. It’s very light on it’s interactivity and challenge. This shouldn’t dissuade anyone from it though. It’s still a good piece of art and tells a unique and well delivered story.
The next aspect of the game is the visual novel method of storytelling. At certain intervals the game will cut to a comic book paneled series of cutscenes to convey it’s story. It’s a really interesting way to get the story across and I think it works well with the art style. These scenes show the absolutely brutal and heart wrenching aspects of The Grandfather’s life and they also provide a lot of context and backstory to the overall story. They’re also really well drawn and have stellar animations. These are , to me, the most visually captivating moments in the game. Ironically, these segments are the least interactive part of the game. As in, it requires no interactivity. You don’t even need to click a button. This is think goes back to the argument at hand with this game. There is also a voice over narration that explains the story to you but it sounds bad. I really don’t think that they sound tested this whatsoever. I can make higher quality audio on my headphones than whatever was used to record this. The story that the narrator is telling is interesting but it really breaks my immersion when instead of imagining this unbeknownst narrator telling me a story I picture a person, sitting in a room, on the phone talking to the person that is recording this on the other end. Definitely immersion breaking.
So, how I look at this is that the game is divided into 3 parts.
One part requires you to hold W until you reach your objective, at which time you click the left mouse button.
The other part requires you to move around The Grandfather’s floating head as if its some glorified mouse cursor and at time connect items to other items.
And the other part just requires you to stare at a screen.
The actual “game” here is pretty minimal. If you’re looking for something that has good gameplay mechanics and a unique and interesting story than I would say that this is not the game for you. You should only be coming to this game if you want a unique story that’s over before and episode of Game of Thrones is halfway through. The price of the game is fair at a nice $2.99 which is the right price for a game of this length. It’s worth the money and it’s worth your time. It’s not fun because it’s very difficult to make these type of themes fun. Instead, it is very dark and twisted and mature. I see where people wouldn’t like this game but for me it was an enjoyable and unique experience that serves as a dark and twisted character study.